Wyoming woman among first 4 COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes winners

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The first four winners of the MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes, each getting $50,000, include a great-grandmother from the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming and a nurse from southeast Michigan.

The first winner is Amber Berger, a registered nurse from New Baltimore near Detroit. She was vaccinated July 1 at Henry Ford Hospital.

“I got it for a couple of different reasons. One of them is because I want to go on vacation and to also help keep everyone safe,” she said in a prerecorded video statement released Wednesday. “I unfortunately know quite a few people that have been affected by COVID. My husband was very sick and in the hospital with COVID. I have a very close friend and co-worker who is still suffering over a year later with the effects of COVID. Also I just saw so many horrific things just working in the COVID units with it.”

Her husband Andrew Berger is a lieutenant with the Roseville Police Department.

Amber Berger acknowledged that the vaccine may be scary to some because it’s so new, but said it’s worth it to protect yourself and others.

The second winner, vaccinated July 2, is Adrienne Peterson of Southfield. She told sweepstakes organizers that she was going to use her prize money to buy a new house.

The third winner, vaccinated July 3, is Christopher Ackerman of Detroit. He said he got his shot in part because he was tired of wearing a mask, but also because he wanted to protect himself and his family.

“And now look, I just won some money,” he said in a video statement. “Michigan, let’s all get out here and get vaccinated so we go back to a better Michigan.”

The fourth and final winner is Larita Lee of Wyoming. She was vaccinated July 4 at the Family Fare near Metro Health – University of Michigan Health in Wyoming. She’s a retired General Motors factor worker, a mother of three, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of two.

She told officials that the sweepstakes is what prompted her to get her first shot — but she wishes she had done it sooner so she would already be fully vaccinated and protected from the delta variant. She said she’s telling everyone she knows to get their shots.

“You don’t want to end up on a ventilator in the hospital,” she said, according to sweepstakes organizers.

She said she’s going to use her money as a down payment on a new house.

News 8 talked with the pharmacy staff that gave Lee the winning shot.

“We are so excited and delighted that one of our customers won the prize,” Pharmacy Operations Manager Jan Huffman said. 

Although daily vaccinations have slowed down at pharmacies and clinics across the state, Huffman is hopeful things will pick up.

“There’s some hesitancy among some, but there are others that are willing to get the shot and they just need a little push or extra incentive, and I think the lottery with the state may help with that,” Huffman said. 

The four winners from last week’s $50,000 daily drawings had already been notified but weren’t introduced publicly until a Wednesday news conference.

The $1 million winner was notified after the drawing Monday but won’t be announced publicly for at least a few days, Kerry Ebersole Singh, director of the Protect Michigan Commission, which is working to encourage Michigan residents to get their shots, told News 8.

As of Wednesday, some 1.78 million people had entered the sweepstakes to win cash prizes and about 78,000 young people ages 12 to 17 have entered to win one of nine college scholarships. To enter for your chance to win, you can go to mishottowin.com or call the Michigan COVID-19 hotline at 888.535.6136 and press 1. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 must be registered by a parent.

“I want to give a huge, huge thanks to every Michigander who stepped up to get their vaccine,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during the press conference announcing the winners.

The goal of the sweepstakes is to increase the state’s vaccination rate to 70% of residents age 16 and older. As of Monday, the state said 62.4% of Michigan residents — or more than 5 million people — age 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We hope the sweepstakes can increase our rate by about seven and a half percent so we get to that 70% mark,” Whitmer said. “…If you’ve not gotten your shot yet, the virus is still a very real threat to you. Right now, the delta variant is highly infections and it’s in the United States and here in Michigan.”

She urged people who are worried about the vaccine to reach out to their family doctor to learn more about how they work, how they’ve been tested and why they’re safe.

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